Iran Releases Academic Roland Marchal in Prisoner Swap—Hopes for Fariba Adelkhah’s Release

Updated: May 12

Endangered Scholars Worldwide learned that on March 21, 2020 Iran freed Roland Marchal after a prisoner swap with France. Marchal was arrested on June 2019 upon arrival at the airport in Tehran along with the French Iranian anthropologist Fariba Adelkhah, who was also arrested that day.

In Marchal’s first public statement since returning to France, he said that the isolation was worse than the interrogations.

“I was not physically tortured, but I suffered greatly from my confinement, and above all, my isolation,” he wrote in a message transmitted by his support group of friends and colleagues.

“Much more than the interrogations, it is confinement—very different to the type imposed on us because of the coronavirus—which proved very painful.”

Following the release of Marchal, Sciences Po released a statement expressing “immense joy” and “great relief” but also said that they can “celebrate fully (only) when both of our friends are with us again.”


Ronald Marchal | Photo Credit: Facebook

The scholar still imprisoned, Faribah Adelkhah, 60, is a director of research at Sciences Po’s Centre for International Studies (CERI). She is a well-known anthropologist and researcher on Iran and Shiite Islam. Believed to have been arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) on suspicion of spying, Adelkhah has traveled frequently between the two countries and had spent nearly half of the past 18 months in Iran where her family lives, friend and fellow academic Jean-Francois Bayart told AFP. According to Banegas, Marchal and Adelkhah were in a romantic relationship. Both scholars have been accused of “propaganda against the system” and “colluding to commit acts against national security.”

On April 20, 2020, Adelkhah’s lawyer, Said Dehghan, told the media that he expects the court to release Fariba Adelkhah. According to AFP, Tehran’s Revolutionary Court held a session in her trial on April 19—the second since her trial began last month. Labeling the hearing as “pleasing,” Dehghan raised hopes for Adelkhah’s freedom and said he expected the court’s decision by the end of the week. Adelkhah has been in “high spirits” since Marchal’s release, Dehghan said.

Iran, one of the countries most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, has temporarily released around 85,000 prisoners due to the fear of the novel coronavirus. However, most foreign and dual national academics remain incarcerated. Political prisoners and foreign academics such as the British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, Ahmadreza Djalali, and Fariba Adelkhah have also been excluded from the furloughing of prisoners.

Endangered Scholars Worldwide welcomes the news of Marchal’s release with great relief and urges the officials of the Iranian government for Farbia Adelkhah’s immediate and unconditional release. We urge the Iranian authorities to end the tactic of taking foreign nationals and dual citizen scholars and students hostage for political gains; and to respect, guarantee, and implement the provisions and principles of human rights.

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